UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
February 10, 1988
FRANKLIN McCRAE, Plaintiff,
FILIPE MARQUES, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRIS
MEMORANDUM ORDER (February 10, 1988)
STANLEY S. HARRIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
This matter is before the Court on the motion of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to reconsider the Court's Memorandum Opinion of March 16, 1987. Upon consideration of the motion, the oppositions thereto, and the entire record herein, the Court concludes that the motion must be denied.
The Court recited the basic facts of this case in its March 16 opinion. Pursuant to the Court's invitation in footnote 6 of that opinion, WMATA intervened to request reconsideration. Although WMATA's arguments do not persuade the Court to alter its ruling, the Court deems it appropriate to clarify one of the issues discussed in the opinion.
WMATA argues that the District of Columbia Council intended the District of Columbia Workers' Compensation Act, D.C. Code §§ 36-301 through 36-344, to be the primary statutory scheme governing parties' rights in situations such as the instant case in which both the Workers' Compensation Act and the Compulsory/No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act of 1982 (No-Fault), D.C. Code §§ 35-2101 through 35-2115, apply yet provide inconsistent results.
The Court does not agree. The Court concludes that the Council intended benefits payable under the Workers' Compensation Act to be primary over benefits payable under No-Fault; however, No-Fault remains the primary statutory scheme governing parties' rights in situations where both laws apply.
Section 35-2110(b) of No-Fault provides in part:
(b) SUBTRACTION OF CERTAIN OTHER BENEFITS
All benefits (less reasonably incurred collection costs) that an individual receives or may receive, with respect to an injury, from:
* * * *
(2) workers' compensation;
* * * *
shall be subtracted in calculating personal injury protection benefits unless the law authorizing or providing for those benefits makes them secondary to or duplicative of personal injury protection benefits.
The Workers' Compensation Act does not make benefits paid under Workers' Compensation secondary or duplicative of personal injury protection (PIP) benefits; therefore, PIP benefits must be paid only if the benefits paid under Workers' Compensation do not accord an injured individual the full measure of recovery he would receive from PIP benefits. This conclusion is buttressed by § 35-2110(f) of No-Fault, which provides that "except as provided in subsections (b) and (c), personal injury protection benefits and insurance shall be primary over any other applicable insurance." Therefore, benefits payable under Workers' Compensation are primary over benefits payable under No-Fault.
Although the benefits payable under Workers' Compensation are primary over PIP benefits, the remedies under Workers' Compensation for an employer to recoup benefits paid from liable third parties are not primary over the remedies set forth in No-Fault. In situations where both No-Fault and Workers' Compensation apply, an employer may recoup benefits paid under Workers' Compensation only through the avenues provided in No-Fault. No-Fault imposes limitations on civil actions arising from automobile accidents.
The Court believes that the more limited remedies available under No-Fault should govern parties' rights in situations where both laws apply because (1) the Council enacted No-Fault after the Workers' Compensation Act, and, under the general rule of statutory construction, the statute enacted last in time governs where the laws provide inconsistent results; (2) if an individual injured in the course of his employment (or his employer, as assignee) were permitted to bring a civil action unhindered by the limitations imposed by No-Fault, such an individual (or employer) would enjoy the benefits of a classification (i.e., employees injured in the course of their employment, as distinguished from individuals injured other than in the course of employment) for which the Court can discern no rational basis; and (3) the Council made a policy decision to limit the proliferation of lawsuits arising from automobile accidents, and permitting an individual injured in the course of his employment (or his employer) to avoid the limitations imposed on lawsuits arising from automobile accidents would undercut the Council's policy decision without providing any counter-balancing benefit. Therefore, No-Fault serves as the primary statutory scheme governing parties' rights in situations in which both No-Fault and Workers' Compensation apply.
Under No-Fault, an insurer who has paid benefits to an insured may seek reimbursement from the insurer of the liable third party. D.C. Code § 35-2111(d). Although § 35-2111(d) provides for reimbursement of PIP benefits and does not mention workers' compensation benefits, the Court concludes that workers' compensation benefits paid which satisfy in whole or in part the PIP benefits which must be paid under No-Fault are effectively PIP payments. The employer who has paid workers' compensation benefits that partially or fully satisfy the required PIP benefits may, therefore, obtain reimbursement from the insurer of the liable third party.
Thus, as the Court ruled on the day before trial, plaintiff may not recover economic losses against defendant because No-Fault precludes suits to recover the economic losses that plaintiff suffered. Moreover, WMATA may not enforce a lien against plaintiff's civil action recovery for pain and suffering; WMATA's sole remedy for reimbursement for economic losses is against the defendant's insurer. Finally, although plaintiff alleged a permanent injury, there is no indication at this time that WMATA will pay workers' compensation benefits to plaintiff in excess of the PIP benefits available. Therefore, the Court will not address the hypothetical issue concerning WMATA's right to recovery if workers' compensation benefits exceed PIP benefits limits.
Accordingly, it hereby is
ORDERED, that WMATA's motion for reconsideration is denied.
Date: February 10, 1988